Khukuri of the Month
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All you need to know about a Khukuri/ Kukri
First n best among many khukris online makers, sellers, dealers, the Khukuri House (KHHI) not only sales but also shares information. Get all needed information from the real power house. The notch in a kukri blade is actually a blood dripper. Kukri has direct link to Kopi.
Khukuri / Kukri Knife:
A mid-length curved knife comprising a distinctive “Cho” that is the national knife and icon of Nepal, basic and traditional utility knife of Nepalese, a formidable and effective weapon of the Gurkhas and an exquisite piece of local craftsmanship that symbolizes pride and valor which also represents the country and it’s culture. Believed to have existed 2500 years ago; “Kopi” is the probable source of the Khukuri that was used by Greek in the 4 th BC. However, khukuri came into limelight only in and particularly after the Nepal War in 1814-15 after the formation of British Gurkha Army. Basically carried in a leather case, mostly having walnut wooden grip and traditionally having two small knives, it is one of the most famous and feared knives of the world.
Some of the famous knives of the world such as the Bowie Knife, the Stiletto, the Scimitar, the Roman Sword, the Machete and so on have all, at one time or the other, played great historical roles as formidable weapons with men have demonstrated raw power and courage during times of battle. The kukri, however, outdoes them all! The great romance and the extraordinary accounts of bravery that this knife evokes are legendary and historic.
There are two names for this knife that are now universally accepted, “Khukuri” or “Kukri”. After going through series of names since someone first tried to speak, pronounce or write when it was first encountered or discovered in the early 1600’s “Khukuri” became the strict Nepalese version that is very common, famous and household name in Nepalese literature. However Khukuri is more known as “Kukri” in the western world and beyond which we see is an anglicized version of the British when they first discovered the knife.
With khukuri’s origin going back to ancient times, the khukuri is not only the national knife of Nepal but is also symbolic of the Gurkha soldier, a prized possession with which he has indelibly carved an identity for himself. The khukuri has been the weapon of choice for the Gorkhas of Nepal and the famous Gorkhali Sainik of King Prithivi Narayan Shah since 16th century and used for almost everything from a utility tool to an effective fighting knife in battle to a unique piece of decoration that has marked its amazing reputation. The successful war campaigns and swift victory of the Gorkhali Sainik against its enemies must be credited to some extent to this unusual and practical weapon. It is also believed that the universal custom of Gurkha Army carrying the khukuri began from Gorkhali Sanik and that was later made an important part of military issue under the British ownership. This custom still exists although the size and type of khukuri have significantly changed and improvised.
The awesome cutting edge of the khukuris was first experienced by the British in India who had to face it in the well-documented battles since 1814 while combating the Gorkhali Sainik in western Nepal. Thus was born the legend and the romance. In the Gurkha soldier's grip, this seemingly small piece of curved steel called Khukuri or Kukri sometimes, becomes an incredibly menacing weapon with which he has demonstrated rare feats of bravery while facing the enemy in many a battlefield.
The khukuri is a medium-length curved knife each Gurkha soldier carries with him in uniform and in battle.In his grip, it is a formidable razor-sharp weapon and a cutting tool. In fact, it is an extension of his arm. When his rifle misfires, or when his bullets have run out, a Gurkha unsheathes his khukuri and makes his final "do-or-die" run on the enemy in a fury to finish the business. This scene created the romance and the legends. What he really did, and still does with his khukuri, is a super-clean slaughter: The enemy tumbles down in two clean pieces- and in surprise! - because his is the kindest, quietest death because it is the quickest.
At present, khukuri is recognized as the national knife of Nepal. Known more than being just a revered and effective weapon, the khukuri is also the peaceful all-purpose knife of the hill people of Nepal. It is a versatile working tool and therefore an indispensable possession of almost every household, especially of those belonging to the Gurung, Magar, Rai, Limbu and Tamang ethnic groups of central and eastern Nepal. A Nepali boy is likely to have his own khukuri at the tender age of five or so and necessarily becomes skilful in its usage long before his man hood. It is also likely that the boy will have painful encounters with his khukuri but his belief and bonding in the process with the khukuri will teach him how to use and respect it. Moreover, apart from the fact that the khukuri is an exceptionally effective tool that denotes a strong character, it also symbolizes bravery and valor and is a Nepalese cultural icon, it also represents an exquisite piece of Nepalese craftsmanship and is indeed a unique memento for you to take back home from Nepal.
The construction of khukuri is very basic and simple yet it has style and class of its own. In Nepal people still use very traditional and primitive method and conventional tools to make it. In early Nepal most villages would have a metal smith or famously known as “Kamis” who forged khukuirs to their best ability. In today’s context there is a good deal of mass production done in a organized and systematic way where Kamis from different places come together under the same shade and work for a contractor who is responsible for all management, business and financial activities.
The khukuri blades have always varied much in quality. Inferior and high quality steels both have been equally used thus needs an expert eye and skill to distinguish one from the other. Old heavy vehicles spring (suspension) steel has always been the source of a good quality khukuri blade. Khukuris in the earlier days were much longer than the modern ones and significantly varied in shape and size than its contemporary siblings; and also had steel fixtures. Army khukuris issued to the Gurkhas during the World War era had stampings like name of manufacturer, inspection date, issue date and sometimes name of the military unit. Khukuris were than longer and more curved than the current issues. Along with traditional and village khukuris even the army knives have intensely changed over the years to adapting to the modern times and its developments.
Khukuri grips are normally made from local walnut wood called “Sattisaal” in Nepalese, domestic water buffalo horn and some very fancy from brass, aluminum; and even ivory and rhino horn are used for some very special ones.
Basically two types of tang are applied; one is the rat-tail tang that goes all the way through the handle narrowing its surface area as it finishes towards the end of the handle and its end/tail is penned over and secured. The other is the full flat tang that also goes through the handle but the tang can be seen on the sides of the handle and steel rivets are fixed to secure the handle to the tang and a pommel plate or butt cap is also fitted at the end to enhance the total fixture; this type is called as “Panawal Handle”. Most of ancient khukuris used to have wooden handle with rat tail tang however, surprisingly, the tail did not come all the way through the handle. The handles were curved unlike the modern ones and had steel or iron fixtures in most cases. The exact origin or who initiated the “Panawal” handle is not known but probably started in early 1900’s when Kamis were influenced by British Knives and they undertook the new better version. It is also likely that the handle demanded better treatment as rat tail handle were not strong enough to hold the long blades when put hard on job. Today different materials are used in the khukuri and are improvised to better suit the demands of today and for better results nonetheless traditional styles have been retained except for a few exceptional and unique ones.
The khukuri is carried in scabbard, “Dap” in Nepalese, where normally 2 pieces of wooden frames are covered with water buffalo hide or other domesticated animal parts and may or may not have brass or steel protective chape depending on the type of khukuri. Khukuri scabbard like the blade and handle has come a long way with many changes and modifications along the way to keep up with the ever changing time and need. Scabbards from early days did not have belt frog and people used untreated untainted raw leather hide just for the mere shake of carrying the Khukuri blade. Khukuri were thus stuck in the owner’s sash or “Patuka” as frogs or any sorts of holder were missing. After the formation of British Gurkhas frogs were introduced by British to carry khukuri from waist belt and later steel and brass fixtures were used to look good and also to protect the naked tip of the scabbard. Some khukuris have decorative scabbard with beautifully well done wooden, horn, silver, brass work and sometimes ivory. Khukuri that are especially intended for display purpose, are given extra time and effort to its scabbard by using horns, wood and other expensive decorative materials crafting beautiful designs and carvings with traditional and religious symbols in the scabbard. It is a customary in Gurkha Army to present a retiring officer with a Kothimoda khukuri (silver case) to honor his outstanding long and loyal service to the regiment and the country. Khukuri scabbard also has two pockets at the back that carry blunt steel called “Chakmak” for sharpening the khukuri blade and also for striking sparks from flint and a little sharp knife called “Karda” used as a small utility knife. Very old scabbards along with Karda and Chakmak also had an extra leather pouch (Khalti) attached to it used for carrying small survival kits or most of the time small piece of flint to create a spark with the Chakmak. However, army khukuris in world war days and most khukuris in 19th and early 20th centuries did have neither the Karda Chakmak nor the extra pouch. It is only after the mid 20th century Karda and Chakmak were again placed back in the Gurkha knives to maintain the khukuri tradition. Most khukuri at present have Karda Chakmak however Khalti is ignored.
Shapes and sizes of khukuris from ancient to modern ones have varied intensely from place to place, person to person, maker to maker and so forth. Khukuri made in the Eastern village Bhojpur, very famous for khukuris, make fat thick blade where as Sirupate, the most famous khukuri in Nepal is very slim and thin. Similarly khukuris from Salyan are long and slender with deeper belly and Dhankuta, a village in the east make simple standard army type blade but gives emphasis on the scabbard by making it decorative and ornate. Khukuris made during the 18th and 19th century was much longer and more curved than its modern counterparts. The shapes were often very broad belly and heavy or very curved slender and thus very light. Only the standard army issue were and are made of the same dimension and measurement in order to bring uniformity and tidiness to the unit; where as local khukuris still continue to vary from one another making it impossible to characterize or distinguish a particular khukuri from the rest. Moreover, since all khukuris are totally handmade even the same type and version tend to differ a bit leaving the impression of the habitual of the maker and his individuality.
The most appealing and distinctive part of the khukuri is the notch or "Cho" cut into the blade directly in front of the grip and the bolster. The Cho or ”Kaudi” in Nepalese that separates the khukuri from the world of knives arouses much interest because of its unique shape and utility objectives. Practically the notch works as a blood dipper to prevent the blood or fluid from going towards the handle so that firm grip can be maintained throughout the execution and also as a stopper to stop Chakmak (sharpener) from reaching the handle area when sharpening while running down the edge of the khukuri blade. Similarly the notch also has religious significance as it signifies the Hindu fertility symbol (OM) and represents the sacred cow‘s hoof (as cow is worshipped in Nepal).It is also believed to have been developed as a device for catching and neutralizing an enemy blade in close combat. However, myths like notch being a target device to capture an enemy‘s sight within it and hurl the blade like a boomera ng to snick of his head is not true as khukuri is never thrown. As well the notch being a can opener or rest curvature for index finger of the using hand while slicing are all fictitious. The first khukuri blade ever known to the modern mankind had the Cho and some drawings found in an Indian temple around 600AD also depict it in the blade. Almost all khukuri that originated in the past had the legendary notch and even the modern ones continue to carry this distinctive tradition.
Myths, Legends, Religion & Belief:
The name and fame of khukuri is so exceptional and not only because it is one very efficient and excellent knife but the myths it carries within and its religious values have literally made this knife a true legend. The myths that has spread over the centuries particularly into the western world has made khukuri more a subject of interest and knowledge and a must for the knives collectors. A khukuri once drawn in whatever circumstances must taste blood before it is re-sheathed; the symbolic ”Kaudi” notch as a sighting device to capture enemy’s view within it and hurl the khukuri towards him, snick off his head and snatch the khukuri out of the air as it returns; and the notch being used to disarm the enemy by catching his sword in it and snatching from his hand by twisting the khukuri are all myths (however first one may be true in ancient times) but has rather created a fearful, respectful and distinctive image to this amazing knife in minds and thoughts of millions.
The khukuri’s ability and usage to behead the enemy’s head in a single stroke, being awfully used as a killing machine in wars and combats, Gurkhas charging with it in fury to execute their “Do or Die” action, being excessively used as a survival and utility tool by Gurkhas and locals (one Gurkha soldier survived in the Malayan jungle alone for seven years by his khukuri), Nepalese hill men at all times using it as a domestic knife at home and away, and the khukuri being used to slaughter wild animals against their attacks are all legendary tales that have made the khukuri a one of a kind knife mankind has ever held.
The khukuri is also much more than just a knife or a weapon in Nepal because of its religious values it carries and beliefs it has created in the Nepalese culture. The shape of the blade itself represents the trinity symbols of “Brahma”, “Vishnu” and “Shiva”, the three most famous and influential Hindu Gods in Nepal and beyond. The notch in the blade signifies the powerful symbol of fertility (OM) of Hinduism and also signifies the cow’s hoof that is believed holy in Nepal. Khukuri is also worshipped in different occasions and festivals and perceived as a dynamic icon of Hindu mythology. Mainly in “Dashain”, Nepalese main festival, the khukuri is worshipped ritually and put to action of beheading domestic animals as offerings to the “Durga” goddess (Goddess who slaughtered devils and evils).Similarly in “Biswakarma Puja” that mainly falls in autumn, devotees worship khukuri along with other iron and steel tools to pay their respect and loyalty. Besides these khukuri is worshipped prior to any sacrificia l ceremonies as there is a belief in Nepalese society that “a khukuri must taste blood to become a khukuri”. This sacrificial tradition also follows in the Gurkha Army where each year animals are sacrificed to foresee good fortune and blessings to the regiments and its soldiers.
The faith and belief that the khukri has produced are remarkable and interesting. A khukuri when kept at home would bring fortune, prosperity and kill evil spirits is a belief that continues to survive till today that has been brought down since generations. The khukuri is believed to have spiritual power to scare off demons, evils and "nightmares and thus kept under the pillow of a man or especially child who suffers from sleeping disorder. Similarly in Mongolian ethnic groups like Rai, Limbu, Gurung, Magar and Tamang etc a khukuri is also cremated along with the dead man in a belief that the khukuri would defeat the satan so that the departed soul could go to heaven and rest in peace. There is also a belief and saying that “A man with a khukuri” represents a man of honor, dignity, courage and loyalty who would kill and get killed for the rightful cause. There is also a saying by Padma Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana, former Prime Minister of Nepal that “… the khukuri is the national as well as the religio us weapon of the Gurkha to carry it while awake and to place it under the pillow when retired. As a religious weapon it is worshipped during the Dashain and at other times whenever any sacrifice is to be made.”
Besides these, the khukuri is the symbol of wealth, status and prestige in Nepal. It is also widely used as the national monogram and mark of level of ranking in security forces.
The oldest kukri known to exist is the one on display at the National Museum in Kathmandu which belonged to Drabya Shah, the King of Gorkha in 1627 AD. It is, however, certain that the origins of the knife stretch further back, way back to 2500 years…
"Khukuri"- The Pride of the Gurkhas - A documentary by KHHI, Nepal
Historic Video made by KHHI for the Kukri, Khukuri, Gurkha Knives, Gurkhas, Gurkhas VC Holder